I like the established beer flavour wheel, which was introduced in the 1970s by brewing chemist Dr Morten Meilgaard. It works well, it’s easy to read and it goes into a lot of technical detail. But looking at the wheel it includes compounds such as 2-Phenylethanol and Isoamyl acetate, which are pretty technical pieces of information that aren’t exactly common knowledge (2-Phenylethanol is a rose-like aroma and Isoamyl acetate is banana).
So while I like that wheel, it’s not the most consumer-friendly. Doing some research I found wheels for coffee, chocolate (both from here), wine (which is aroma-specific) and whisky, which are easy to use and interesting and break down the tasting experience into a simpler format, just giving recognisable flavours (mostly, anyway; I had no idea what cineolic or camphoric were in the coffee wheel until I googled them – like spicy, woody bay leaf or tea tree, I think).
When I was working on Craft Beer World, I thought I’d try and rework the beer wheel to see what I could do. Not as a replacement for the one we all know, but a wheel which is more approachable for general drinkers; one which looks at the specific ingredients and processes of beer, looks at esters and off-flavours, considers mouthfeel, aroma, flavour and the general experience of beer. Not necessarily one for brewers or the technical troubleshooters, I wanted a wheel aimed at looking for the right word to describe how beer tastes or for figuring out what a flavour is and where it might have come from.
It was just an itch-scratching experiment to begin and I started throwing down words and drawing big circles with lots of lines in and around them, but gradually a useable wheel took shape. And that wheel had a nice flow of flavours to it. So I sent it to my editor, who sent it to the (incredibly patient...) designer, who put something together.
The Beer Flavor Wheel (the book is written in American; or, more accurately, I wrote it in English and someone translated it) I come up with is in the book, which went to print this week and will be out in a few months. And here it is below, the first thing I’m allowed to share from Craft Beer World. I’m really pleased with how this wheel has turned out and I hope that it can be something which drinkers find useful. What do you think?